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Monday, July 13, 2015

The lonely sidewalk

I was driving on Via Rancho del Lago the other day.  I had just passed the Del Webb community entrance and was leisurely driving south.  I saw ahead of me an elderly man who was walking on the sidewalk.  He did something that I have seen many times before.  I saw him pause, look around, and then head back the other direction.

I thought to myself, "how many times have I done that"?  There are so many times when I just need to go for a walk.  I get tired of sitting at home in front of the computer and I just need to stretch my legs.  It would be wonderful if there were a coffee shop within walking distance of my house.  I could walk to the coffee shop, get a frapu-something, and then walk home.  I would feel invigorated, refreshed, and renewed.  But alas there are no coffee shops in Vail. So when I go for a walk, many times I walk for a bit, turn around, and go back home.

(There once was a railroad car coffee shop near the historic Old Post Office between the tracks many years back, but Pima County forced them to move.  Thank God that Pima County is watching over us or we might have other developments and have, you know, actual stuff in Vail.  But I digress.)


Now imagine another scenario.  Imagine that Del Webb is connected to walking paths.  Imagine that there were elegant paths lined with Mesquite and Palo Verde trees.  Imagine the paths were dotted with benches, bird baths, and desert flowers.  Imagine that this same elderly man could walk along this path and arrive at a coffee shop or park.  Imagine when he arrived, he had a cup of coffee and played a game of chess with a friend.   Imagine that there were many other people doing the same thing.  Imagine if Vail added this full and rich dimension to our community.

There are two ways that this can happen.  We could wait until some developer decided to actually build in Vail - and hope that it was something that we actually needed - or we could develop a plan.  The plan would dream about what Vail could be.  It would show where and what kind of developments we want.  Then our community could search out like-minded developers to build this plan.

I have worked with developers all my professional career.  Contrary to what many people believe, developers LOVE to build things that people actually want.  It reduces their liability.  It helps with their legacy.  If a developer were courted and asked to build a project that the community supported, he would jump at the chance.

There are three major obstacles for a development project.  First, you have to satisfy county requirements. Second, you have to have enough neighborhood support to show that they aren't going to kill the project.   And finally, the project needs to make financial sense.  If a development can satisfy all three of these barriers, developers come out of the woodwork.

If we want this kind of Vail, we can't sit idly on our hands.  We must be proactive.  We must look at the community around us and dream for what could be.  We must put it into a plan.  Things don't happen without effort.

And what does that mean for the old man?  Maybe some day he won't walk the lonely sidewalk, but live in a community where there is walking, biking, shopping, parks, paths, and the great views.

Do what you can to create a Smart Vail.

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